Bulls And Bears

Asian markets gain on US tax reform hopes

Excitement over much-awaited move helps offset concerns over French elections

Asian bourses ended the week on a positive note amid excitement over news of imminent moves to reform the United States tax system.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said plans for major tax reform would be tabled "very soon". The much-awaited move is expected to benefit American businesses and households, thereby building a stronger economy that can better support a global recovery.

This was enough to offset concerns over tomorrow's French election. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.85 per cent overnight, also thanks to good results reported by several major companies.

Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) closed up 1.95 points or 0.06 per cent at 3,139.83 yesterday. For the week, it shed 0.93 per cent.

Kuala Lumpur gained 0.83 per cent, Sydney put on 0.56 per cent and Tokyo rose 1.03 per cent. Shanghai edged up 0.03 per cent.

Still, some market watchers, such as trading strategist Nicholas Teo at KGI Securities Singapore, were not too excited. He noted that US President Donald Trump had not seen much success so far in implementing big policies, so tax reform "could also have trouble navigating its way through the halls of Capitol Hill".

Mr Teo told The Straits Times: "(Yesterday's bounce) could be just a blip. After a very strong first quarter, I think the mood has gradually shifted. Now, people are looking more for excuses to sell than to buy."

Signs of uncertainty abound. Keppel Corp, for instance, posted 23.7 per cent growth in first-quarter earnings, but the 28.4 per cent drop in revenue laid bare the persistent weakness in its offshore and marine operations.

DBS analyst Ho Pei Hwa noted that its offshore and marine revenue could fall to between $3 billion and $4 billion for financial years 2017 and 2018, half the levels seen between 2012 and 2014.

"We expect Keppel to secure $1.5 billion in new orders this year. The order book - excluding Sete rigs - has dwindled to $3.7 billion from $5.1 billion as at end-2015," she added, keeping a target price of $6.

Still, the counter managed to rise a cent or 0.15 per cent to $6.56 - one of 20 STI stocks that ended in the black. Sembcorp Industries was up two cents or 0.65 per cent at $3.09.

Jardine Cycle & Carriage was the top gainer, jumping $1.43 or 3.15 per cent to $46.83. UOL Group rose 22 cents or 3.15 per cent to $7.20. Singapore Press Holdings was up three cents or 0.89 per cent at $3.40.

Seven STI stocks lost ground, led by DBS Group Holdings, which fell 14 cents or 0.74 per cent to $18.77. OCBC shed one cent or 0.10 per cent to $9.59. In contrast, United Overseas Bank rose two cents or 0.09 per cent to $21.77.

Yesterday's top active was Addvalue Technologies, with 193.8 million transacted shares. The hotly traded stock rose 0.3 cent or 6.38 per cent to five cents, for a 22 per cent gain over the past month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Asian markets gain on US tax reform hopes'. Subscribe